Okay let’s talk about the present. A couple hours ago the sun set and as the disk dipped below the horizon and the afterglow created wondrous color schemes across the skies in unique patterns and shelves of beauty all across the western hemisphere, I slept. My Sunday naps can get violently long, and my basement room holds the dark very well. The New Year was just a month and a half ago. It’s now mid-February. February, as it turns out, has a long and curious history. The English word that many people pronounce differently (both feb-roo-ary and feb-you-ary are technically correct pronunciations) comes from the Latin month Februarius that got its name from the Roman ritual Februa that occurred on the 15th of the month and means purification or purging. The Romans had a lot of good ideas and a great deal of absurd practices. In fact, you could spend your whole life studying the various festivals, rites, rituals, feasts, sacrifices, and various observances that were part of their religious and secular lives. Though I’m not sure how I feel about the sacrificial dog and goat, or the parading around the town naked, or the blood on my forehead (even if it is wiped clean with milk-soaked wool), I do love the idea of attempting to purify yourself in the middle of February. It can be such a dark and discouraging month. The cold returns again and again unabated, the hope of the new year being your finest yet is often dashed, the grass is dead and dry, and there you are eating discounted candy because you didn’t have a valentine, but still respect the sales and traditions of the season. Summer isn’t even close. Christmas is wildly far away. Springtime even seems like a pretty thing that may not actually arrive, like a date with a girl well out of your league. You won’t believe it till it happens. The month is so dreary that its name in other languages makes little effort to hide what it is. The Old English term Solomonath means mud month. In Polish the month is called Luty, meaning hard frost, or the month of ice. In Macedonian, they use the term Sechko, which basically means the month of cutting wood. Other Slavic languages use words that denote the melting of ice or the submerging of river ice. It’s all very cold and uncheerful. In fact, January and February were the last two months to be added to the Roman calendar because they considered winter to be a monthless period.
I’m sure many people love this month for a myriad of valid reasons, but it’s honestly just not my favorite. I am with the Romans, and consider winter to be a monthless time. Notwithstanding my poor attitude and disdain for the cold, I could probably benefit from a little self-purification this time of year. But what does that entail? Would it be akin to Lent, in just giving something up? Or should it be more? Maybe a full evaluation of things in my life that I should fully purge?
Things I should purge, not all of which are tangible:
-I should purge talking poorly about anyone at anytime. What’s the point? Even if it is unassailably funny.
-I should purge myself of all lascivious and lecherous thoughts/actions (as should all men probs)
-I should at least consider purging the amount of time I waste online.
-I should also purge myself of negative self-talk.
– (many other personal unsharable items as I’m sure you also have)
In short, much about my life could and should be purified, and though some people like to do spring cleaning, maybe the Romans were on to something, something to get you out of the winter doldrums and keep you happy when the snow returns and your lover leaves. In reading about the Februa ritual, one aspect stood out to me that I think we ought to apply to our own purification processes: After the blood sacrifice, the anointing, and the cleanup, the participants it was said, were expected to smile and/or laugh. That may sound crude or odd, but I think we should strive to do the same, to rid our lives of some burdens, some ugly parts, and then smile at what we’ve done and what we may become.